Huntington's disease: Mortality and risk factors in an Australian cohort

Published:September 25, 2022DOI:


      • Median survival from onset was 19 years.
      • There was a 6 times increased risk of death compared to the general population in Australia.
      • CAG repeat number and age of onset were not predictors of association for mortality.



      There has not been any examination of the risk factors associated with mortality in Huntington's Disease (HD) in an Australian cohort.


      This retrospective study included inpatients admitted to a specialist neuropsychiatry service in Melbourne, Australia. HD status was based on genetic testing. Risk factors included age of onset, CAG repeat length and neuroimaging. Mortality data was acquired through the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare National Death Index.


      The cohort included 83 participants, with 44 (53%) deceased. The median age of death was 59 years and median survival was 18.8 years from onset age (median 41.0 years). CAG repeat length (median 44.0, IQR 42.5, 47.0) was inversely correlated with age of onset (r = −0.73) and age at death (r = −0.80) but was not correlated with mortality status. There was no difference in functional and cognitive assessments, nor brain volumes, in the alive group compared to the deceased group. There were more people who were alive who had a positive family history of a psychiatric condition (p = 0.006) or dementia (p = 0.009). Standardised mortality ratios demonstrated a 5.9× increased risk of death for those with HD compared to the general population.


      This is the first study to examine risk factors of mortality in HD in an Australian cohort. Median survival in our cohort is consistent with previous studies in HD, and markedly reduced compared to the general Australian population. CAG repeat length was not associated with mortality suggesting that non-genetic factors contribute to mortality status and warrant further investigation.


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